Faced with the always difficult decisions surrounding a loved one's death, more and more people are opting to go with the highly customizable and cost efficient cremation process.
Between 1960 and 2010, the national average rate of cremation rose from 3.56 percent to 40.62 percent in the U.S., according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
And locally, that number is still on the rise, said Jon Leavitt, funeral director and co-owner of Leavitt Funeral Home in Parkersburg.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Stephen Leavitt, funeral director and co-owner of Leavitt Funeral Home in Parkersburg, stands near the funeral home's crematory, which when in use reaches temperatures near 1,700 degrees.
"We knew back almost 20 years ago that cremation was becoming more of a choice for families, and it has grown for a number of reasons," he said.
In 1994, Leavitt Funeral Home built the first crematory in the area and the family takes great pride in personally overseeing the cremation process for customers, said Leavitt.
One of the reasons cremations is growing in popularity is that it is typically more economical than a traditional burial, said Matt Kennedy, apprentice funeral director at Hadley Funeral Home in Reno.
Cremation rate by country and most recent data available
- United States: 40.62 percent (2010)
- Canada: 68.4 percent (2009)
- United Kingdom: 72.44 percent (2008)
- China: 48.50 percent (2008)
- Japan: 99.85 percent (2008)
- Australia: 65 percent (2008)
Source: The Cremation Society of Great Britain and The Cremation Association of North America
"I would say the average price for a traditional burial with the casket and the vault and the opening and closing of the cemetery plot is between $7,000 to $8,000. For cremation, we typically charge $2,545," he said.
Hadley funeral homes have provided cremation services for longer than a decade and both its Reno and New Matamoras locations are equipped with crematories, Kennedy said.
Another important reason families choose cremation is that it provides more flexibility, said Leavitt.
"It allows families to have a few more options. They can have a viewing with the body present or to have a memorial without the body present," he said.
Cremation also appeals to a society that is increasingly mobile, added Kennedy. If a family moves, they do not have to return to a burial site; they can take their loved-ones with them, he said.
Leavitt Funeral Home also provides a completely separate pet crematory.
"What we're finding is families when their pet died, they didn't know what to do," Leavitt said.
Despite the increasing popularity, many people still do not know what to expect of the process.
Typically, cremations are performed inside a crematory, a large, brick-lined machine that incinerates human remains at temperatures between 1,600 to 1,700 degrees, said Kennedy. The process takes around three hours, he said.
The process produces around five to six pounds of cremated remains, which are commonly called ashes, though that is a misconception. The cremated remains are actually bone and calcium deposits that remain after cremation, and are broken up, said Kennedy.
According to the Cremation Association of North America, cremations will exceed traditional burials in the United States by 2025.